It ain't over till it's over. Facebook's longest legal saga, which has lasted seven years so far, looked like it was finally closed, but that was just a false alarm.
In a filing earlier this week with the federal court in San Francisco, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's former Harvard classmates Cameron Winklevoss and Tyler Winklevoss, who accuse him of stealing their idea for the social network, decided not to seek US Supreme Court review of the $65 million settlement made in 2008. Everyone thought this meant they had finally given up. It turns out that the twins have decided to keep fighting after all, just with a different lawsuit.
In a filing with the federal court in Boston yesterday, however, the Winklevoss brothers and their business partner Divya Narendra said they planned to ask the judge to investigate whether Facebook "intentionally or inadvertently suppressed evidence." While Facebook stated earlier this week that the company was happy the case was finally closed, that stance has now had to change. "These are old and baseless allegations that have been considered and rejected previously by the courts," Neel Chatterjee, an attorney for Facebook, said in a statement according to The Los Angeles Times.
This new claim is based on a different legal argument. Last year, instant messages from Zuckerberg emerged online and in media reports that purport to shed new light on the relationship between the Facebook CEO and the Winklevoss twins at the time when Zuckerberg founded Facebook in his Harvard dorm room in 2004.
The instant messages in question were uncovered by Facebook's legal team when it searched Zuckerberg's computer. The trio is asking the Boston federal court to look into claims that Facebook and its lawyers hid instant messages from them during litigation. The argument is that Facebook should have disclosed those communications when the original settlement was put together.
The Winklevoss twins and Narendra started a company called ConnectU while at Harvard. They say Zuckerberg stole their idea and created Facebook, an allegation the company vehemently denies. The trio originally agreed to the aforementioned settlement in 2008, but ever since it has been trying to argue that, based on an internal valuation that Facebook did not reveal, it should have received more Facebook shares as part of the deal. In other words, the group wants more than $65 million.
A lower court previously granted Facebook's request to enforce the settlement with the Winklevoss twins and Narendra. Two months ago, a three-judge appeals court panel agreed and ruled that the Winklevoss twins must accept the cash and stock settlement with Facebook valued at $65 million.
Not only do they now have to prove that Facebook violated discovery procedures, but they also still have to persuade the courts to overturn the settlement. That's going to be really difficult given how many times the group has been told to just take the $65 million already.